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ON THE COVER
She is also the founder of FundsforWriters, the combination of two decades of finance, loan and grant experience and her undying love of writing.
She ventured into science and agriculture in college, eventually working for the U.S. Department of Agriculture as a lender after graduating from Clemson University. Then, 20 years later, she realized she was, and always had been, a writer.
Clark soon grew sick of the government job, at which she wrote all the major documents for the Man including congressionals, budget projections, financial justifications, personnel directives, and more government fiction than you can shake a dagger at. When someone suggested she start writing as, and for, herself, the floodgates opened. She put a financial plan in place to afford an early retirement, and the rest, as they say, is history.
She makes much less money now than she did as a cog in the government machine, but also now loves waking up in the morning. Her family will tell you she's a better person, and Clark can't help but agree. She did the rat race for 25 years, and now has the time to enjoy being a writer.
Which she's doing. As the author of Grants For The Serious Writer, Markets For The Young Writer, The Shy Writer and numerous articles and ebooks on writing, she has made a career out of telling other writers how to find money.
IN: Given your background, what are you finding as viable means for writers getting funding?
CHC: The best start in finding grants is to establish an attitude that grants take the same effort that winning contests, agents, markets and publishing houses do. The process is similar with the application/query/submission process. This seems to bother a lot of people to the point that they give up trying. Instead, think about grants as another income stream that takes dedication and respectful attention.
My main suggestions in finding grants are:
1. Know your arts council. Every State has one. Territories do as well. The UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada have some excellent grants. Outside English speaking countries, pickings get slim, and I am always on the lookout for opportunities there. Residencies and educational swaps are offered through the U.S. State Department or major foundations like the Knight Foundation, but they are competitive and more academic or journalistic in nature, not for the average book writer.
2. Ask conferences if they have scholarships or fellowships to offer. It helps to diffuse travel and entrances fees. Most have a slush fund to help someone attend who otherwise could not.
3. Look up residencies. These "get away and write" opportunities are everywhere and often hidden. Keeping in touch with the artistic arena in your community can educate you about these. Read http://www.shawguides.com, check with national parks, tourism and visitors centers about residencies. Newsletters like FundsforWriters help as well. Residencies are often international possibilities for those from all countries.
4. Become connected with non-profit or charity groups that have access to grant funds you do not. If your writing or career is in tune with their mission statement, they can act as your fiscal sponsor, aiding you in your efforts. To do this, you'll need a good plan for your writing project -- one that you can sell to others as an idea with sales potential. Grants are not given just to write. They are given to make a difference in humanity.
IN: What are the greatest challenges for today's young writers in becoming successful authors?
CHC: Writing through the rejection. Most writers give up in the initial years because that time is full of rejection. That's the nature of being a writer. If you cannot accept being told your writing needs work, you need to find another career. It might take two or 20 years to become published, but you have to face the fact that the competition is tough. Fate has as much to do with your future as the quality of your work. Some writers work another job to support their writing habit. If writing is your first love, then the effort is worth it.
IN: What approach(es) or methods do you use when writing books? Is it the same as writing articles?
CHC: Writing non-fiction articles is easy for me. I sit and stare at a blank screen, ideas running through my mind like a slot machine. When one sticks, I develop the title, the opening paragraph, then start typing. After that I use a proof-reader to read my material.
When I write books, I start with an outline. I flesh it out with ideas and create a synopsis, then flesh out the synopsis into the actual book. And I proof the book myself several times then send it to someone else to proof. I had six people proof The Shy Writer and there is still one error in the book. You cannot proof too much. Writing books and articles require different mental approaches.
IN: You provide information to writers about paying markets. What markets are hot and what markets are not?
CHC: Trade magazines are easier to break into. Many writers want exposure in the big glossy news-stand mags, especially women's magazines. But everyone wants to write for those. It's easier to go after the many other lesser magazines. You might get paid less but you have five or 10 times the acceptance rate. And that you can take to the bank!
IN: After finding a publisher and agent what are the best ways for an author to help ensure success in book distribution and sales?
CHC: Why wait for the publisher and agent to plan for sales? You should have a sound marketing plan in mind and on paper when you coax an agent or publisher to take you on. That's part of your query and book proposal. You should comfortably embrace how you want to sell before you sign a contract.
Granted, these professionals will give you sales guidance at a higher knowledge level, but you should have poured your heart into a promotional plan before asking them to get on your train.
That means identifying markets matching your genre, topics and style. I've known mystery writers to include restaurants and historical sites in books in order to garner book-signing opportunities later. If the book has physical abuse in it and the abused character wins in the end, overcoming obstacles, abuse groups might be interested.
If veterans are involved, appearances are possible at innumerable military organizations and military bases. Contacting alma maters are great. It's natural to use the hometown edge. Capitalize on people you know in the media from newspaper to television. Elementary schools to colleges are good venues. Put almost as much time into finding saleable markets as you did writing the book.
IN: What advice would you give to new or young writers just starting out other than "keep writing" and "write what you know"?
CHC: Embrace rejection, glean what you can from it, and infuse your lessons into future projects. Rejection is at least an answer. To me, if someone sends me a rejection, it's a clue to the mystery of better writing. Tossing rejection aside is foolish. Finding a mentor is another strong suggestion of mine. I've had offers from published authors to proof my work because I've helped them in my newsletters. The writing world is nice that way -- nicer than most arenas. Everyone has had to scramble to achieve what he or she has achieved. Reach back to help others and don't be afraid to ask for help yourself.
IN: How important it is for writers to have an Internet presence with their own small web site, such as yours at http://www.fundsforwriters.com/ to contain and present their portfolio?
CHC: I think it is a necessity. It's an inexpensive marketing tool, and you throw away work as well as potential customers and fans by not having that parking spot on the Web. Many editors frown on writers not being savvy enough to know that. You make a much better impression when an agent or publisher Googles your name and it comes up 57 times. Name recognition clinches deals. It's not all about quality writing anymore. It's about marketing.
CHC: It helped me define my introversion better. It empowered me more. I'm a strong internal person, comfortable with myself. But standing in front of 50 people and telling them that is awful for me. I wondered how to deal with such situations.
So I took the lessons I learned and put them in this book. Sometimes you have to get past the shyness while other times you can thumb your nose at the world, be shy and deal with promotion from less open angles. The key is to be comfortable in your own skin regardless of your introvert or extrovert level.
IN: Who have been the most influential people during your writing career?
CHC: People who touch others, who are sincere, who keep their feet on the ground, and who respect others for their thoughts, impress me. I love Stephen King's book On Writing, but I do not like his fiction. I like Cynthia Kersey's Unstoppable books because they are empowering. I love Kathryn Wall mystery novelist from my home state of South Carolina because she remembers me from one book signing I attended.
I like Fern Michaels for herself, but not necessarily her books. She lives in my old hometown and I know the charitable work she does and the efforts she goes through to help others. I like real people who have managed to become successful, and success is defined in whatever makes their life truly happy. Few people find that platform, and I respect the fact they searched until they found it.
IN: FundsForWriters has teamed up with Absynthe Muse http://www.absynthemuse.com to provide mentoring for young writers. What are the most common mistakes that students of writing make?
CHC: Thinking that:
IN: What's next for C. Hope Clark that we can look forward to?
The Shy Writer - October 2004
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